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Sweet dreams

TLT’s last musical of the season is sweet to the ears

Emilie Rommel Shimkus (right) shines as Patsy Cline.

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Always, Patsy Cline is a musical for people that love music but are not particularly fond of musicals. It's more like a concert with a play interspersed between the songs. The story is about the beginning of the six-year friendship between country star Patsy Cline and Louise Seger.

Walking into Tacoma Little Theatre's auditorium for Always, Patsy Cline, the first thing the audience notices is a five-piece country-and-western band, the Bodacious Bobcats, dressed in matching garb. Terry O'Hara, the theater's musical director, plays piano in the band. He did a great job assembling and conducting. The drummer, blessedly, plays at an appropriate volume for the room; the guitars are awesomely twangy; and the honky-tonk piano adds the perfect amount of depth to the sound. The band adds to the play by being more than background music for actress Emilie Rommel Shimkus. They are characters themselves and interact with both Patsy (Shimkus) and Louise (Sharry O'Hare).

The second thing the audience notices is the fabulous set design created by Director/Set Designer Micheal O'Hara. The stage is divided into three sections: a kitchen, the Grand Ole Opry and a honky-tonk. While simple in the staging, the set design gives the ability to move effortlessly between settings without the need for any set changes other than occasionally bringing out or removing the mic stand in the Grand Ole Opry.

Once the band is finished with the opening song, O'Hare comes out on stage and begins her opening monologue. O'Hare is no stranger to theater in Tacoma, and has teamed up with her husband, Michael O'Hara, before, with great success. Shortly after O'Hare drawls out her first lines we hear the lovely voice of Shimkus, who embodies Patsy Cline with skill and stamina.

Both women are incredible in their roles and each brings her own flair to her character. O'Hare is brilliant in her line delivery, coaxing laughs (and dance partners) from the audience. She sashays and dances, and utilizes impeccably nuanced (and overt) gestures and facial expression. She effortlessly exudes Texas hospitality and friendship.

Shimkus was perfectly cast as Patsy Cline. Her vocal range is ideal for Cline's songs and she handles even the more challenging melodies with great skill. Her stamina is also impressive, as she sings her way through 27 numbers and brings her own style and flair to the songs while staying true to Cline's style.

Adding to the wonderful acting is the costuming. Costume designer Michele Graves did an outstanding job choosing costumes that add to the spectacle. Louise stays in the same costume the whole play, but Patsy changes from one beautiful costume to another several times.

In choosing Always, Patsy Cline to replace Tommy, which was bagged when Scott Campbell left, TLT made a great decision. In choosing Michael O'Hara to direct and O'Hare and Shimkus as the leads, TLT made two more.  

Through these great decisions the theater has put together one of their best productions of the season.

Always, Patsy Cline

Through May 29, 7:30 p.m. Friday–Saturday
2 p.m. Sunday, $17–$26
Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma

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